Based on Biblical Text: John 15:13:
Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
I submit that the word friend is one of the most loosely interpreted and most frequently used words in our vocabulary. Friend is used to describe so many kinds of relationships that it makes it difficult to verify the true meaning of the word. We find in the dictionary friend is one who is attached to another by affection, regard, or esteem. Friend is also described as an intimate acquaintance or an ally and a supporter of a cause.
We can agree that these definitions may be scholarly and academically sound, but I think we can also conclude they are somewhat limited. Many of us have to admit that we have used the word friend in more situations than these definitions include.
We find even in the Bible the word friend is used to describe various relationships. A good example is when Brother Job was dealing with his trials. The Bible says some brothers stopped by who were called friends. We find that these “friends” were not as much help lifting Job’s spirits as they were a bother adding to his burden. It is a little confusing characterizing these brothers as friends when instead of lifting Job with encouragement, bringing light to the situation, they crushed him with false accusations and sarcastic insinuations, contributing to his darkness.
We can agree that it is quite interesting how friendships are formed. Friends sometimes come together in a common bond as a result of some sickness or tragedy. Friends grow up in the same neighborhood and never lose contact. Some become friends meeting at church finding that they enjoy working together. Folk may serve on the same committee, or sit in the same pew, Sunday after Sunday eventually discovering they have forged a friendly relationship.
Lamentably some friendships are formed for evil reasons. Some folk with nothing in common at all, bond together simply because they share the same enemy. We find an example of that evil alliance in Pontius Pilate and King Herod. They were bitter enemies until they were both confronted with the man called Jesus Christ. They had absolutely nothing in common but their shared fear of Jesus. They collaborated in order to execute their common enemy. These are the types of friendships we need to be wary of!
There is a way however we can determine who our real friends are! The truth of the matter is the folk who are willing to tell us the truth about ourselves without fear of reprisal are our true friends. These are the folk who display a genuine spirit of love and concern when we are doing something wrong. These are our real friends!
We can also determine who our genuine friends are by recognizing how consistent they are. Folks, who are only loyal as long as we are popular, are not our real friends. Folk who hang around only when we have money in our pocket are not our real friends.
Truth be told, true friends are a rare commodity. We live in a world of cutthroat competition where folk will drop us like a hot potato to gain an advantage over us. In fact, the friend we may have counted on the most will disappoint us and not be there when we need them.
The preacher in me has to say right here, I know somebody who is a real friend by any standard. His name is Jesus! He passed the supreme test of friendship when He gave His life for you and me! In fact, Jesus discussed the subject of friendship on the very night before He was crucified. He had just experienced a triumphant ride into the City of Jerusalem, where throngs of people gathered to wave palms as He passed by.
In the Upper Room Jesus is giving His disciples a few parting instructions, before the tragic event of Calvary is to take place. Jesus says, (paraphrasing), “Now that I am about to make my departure, I want to call you, not my servants, but my friends. And when I call you my friends, I want you to know exactly what I mean. I want you to understand the depth of my love for you. We have an unbreakable bond, you and I. Love and friendship are like Siamese twins; inseparable. One cannot live without the other.” “I have been displaying my friendship ever since I called you to be my disciples. And not only have I been a friend to you, I have shown my friendship to all with whom I have come in contact. And now I am about to demonstrate the ultimate act of friendship. In fact, greater love hath no man than this that a man lay down his life for his friends.”